Happy Drains Blog

Diagnosing issues with cesspit and septic tanks

Firstly, what is the difference between a cesspit and a septic tank?

A cesspit is a sealed underground holding tank designed to receive and store foul wastewater. They have no separate chambers or filters, so they don’t treat the wastewater, only store it.

A septic tank is an underwater sedimentation tank, often fitted at properties which don’t have a connection to a mains sewer line, which are used to treat wastewater through biological decomposition and drainage.  


If you’ve got a cesspit or septic tank and have been happily getting along with it for a while, when an issue occurs it could be a great shock. Knowing what your cesspit or septic tank should look and smell like will help when diagnosing an issue so if you think you’ve got trouble underground because of issues such as your toilet taking longer to flush, weird noises in the pipes, a bad smell or dirty water around the area, you’ll want to sort it quickly.

When diagnosing a problem, firstly check if it needs emptying. Both cesspits and septic tanks need emptying, but a cesspit needs to be maintained a lot more regularly, so give it a once over before looking at other issues.


Next, has anything been flushed that shouldn’t? Many things can cause havoc when flushed if you have a non mains system such as a cesspit or septic tank. Hygiene products like cotton buds, baby wipes etc can cause big issues so check with other people in your property if they’ve flushed something which could be causing a blockage.

An issue which you may experience with a cesspit is leaking. This can lead to very bad smells and the contamination of your garden and property. Leakages can be caused by poorly fitted cesspits, tree roots interfering with the system and general age of the cesspit itself, so try and keep it maintained.


If you need any assistance with the maintenance of your cesspit or septic tank, or think you have an issue, contact us at Happy Drains as we’re always happy to help.